Air Pollution and Cognitive Function: Evidence from Crop Production Cycles
50 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2017 Last revised: 3 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 20, 2017
By exploring crop production cycles in China, this paper examines the impact of air pollution from agricultural fires on human cognitive health by linking household health survey data with fires recorded by remote sensing. The analysis shows a significant negative impact of fire occurrence on cognitive health from a variety of empirical specifications: senior respondents (aged 55 and above) in counties with higher frequencies of straw fires have lower scores in a test of mental intactness and recall fewer objects in a delayed memory test. The negative effect of straw fires on participants’ test results becomes stronger with age, supporting that air pollution causes the process of cognitive decline to begin earlier. Moreover, the impact is only detected among respondents living in downwind counties but not upwind counties. Our findings demonstrate the link between environmental pollution and age-related cognitive decline and indicate that climate change may increase healthcare costs by increasing the risk of wildfires.
Keywords: agricultural fires, air pollution, climate change, cognitive function
JEL Classification: I18, Q15, Q53
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